Ireland's Child Care Institutions during the 20th. Century. Fo'T: The most vivid and passionate stories - banished babies, cruel orphanages, old abuses of power - have concerned things that went unnoticed, or at least unarticulated, at the time. News has often had to be redefined, not as the latest sensation but as that which everybody knew all along yet could not say.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A PENNY FOR A PENANCE by Eddie Holt

... Connect: It's 55 years since the "penny catechism" was first published. Sometimes known as "McQuaid's catechism", the green-covered book "approved by the archbishops and bishops of Ireland" has sold 32,000 copies since its re-publication 10 years ago. Like the Faith of Our Fathers CD that became a bestseller a decade ago, the catechism appeals to traditionalists and nostalgics.

In 1951, when it was published, Eamon de Valera and Winston Churchill were returned to power as taoiseach of Ireland and prime minister of Britain. Ireland's Ernest Walton and Britain's John Cockcroft won the Nobel Prize for physics. An Austin A40 car rose £31 in price to £685. In Europe, the final Nazis convicted of war crimes were hanged. It was the year too in which the US condemned Julius and Ethel Rosenberg to execution for spying. JD Salinger had The Catcher in the Rye published and Britain's youngest Tory candidate in that year's general election was 26-year-old Margaret Roberts. She married Denis Thatcher that year too as her still war-damaged country held its Festival of Britain. The BBC proclaimed: "People do not like momentous events such as war and disaster to be read by the female voice."

Clearly, it wasn't only Ireland that was a different country then. But more than a half century later, Ireland appears even more transformed than Britain, Europe or the US.

Instead of promises of "indulgences", we hear, for instance, guff about "tracker mortgages". In that sense, of course, perhaps little has changed. In 1951, the catechism assured us that for making and saying the sign of the cross, we were guaranteed "an indulgence of 100 days". Made and said using "holy water", the indulgence was tripled. An Act of Contrition yielded "an indulgence of three years" or "a plenary indulgence if recited daily for an entire month". Few people under 50 will recall the distinction between "plenary" and "partial" indulgences. ("Plenary" meant remission of the entire punishment whereas "partial" commutes only a portion.) Few people over 30 will know that a "tracker mortgage" is one where the interest rate is variable but will always be a fixed percentage above the European Central Bank (ECB) base rate. (At least, I didn't and had to seek a definition.) Yet, despite today's irritating, gushy and breathless hard sell of financial "products" - when, if anything, they are "processes" - there are other notable differences between Catholic Tiger Ireland in 1951 and current Celtic Tiger Ireland. Question 249 in McQuaid's catechism illustrates the point. "What is forbidden by the fifth commandment?" it asks. Answer: "The fifth commandment forbids murder and suicide, and all other acts that inflict bodily injury on ourselves or on others."

Whoa! Whoa! What about "mortifications" and sundry practices of flagellation - self and others - that were revered and encouraged at the time? What about the savage beatings in schools, particularly in industrial schools? Question 251 asks "What are they bound to do who have caused bodily injury to others?" The answer makes clear that "they who have inflicted bodily injury on others are bound to make good the loss they have caused". This isn't, of course, always possible. But even when it is, do you really believe the "archbishops and bishops of Ireland" have attempted to conform to the words "approved" by their often hypocritical predecessors? Have they seriously tried "to make good the loss" their Church has caused?

Perhaps some have but as a body, the hierarchy has seemed excessively consumed with protecting itself. It continues to be too. Anyway, from Question 1, "Who made the world?" (answer: "God made the world") to the final question (443) the green penny catechism allows us to see a country that was, in effect, a theocracy. Along the way, such arcane matters as limbo, actual grace and sacramentals are defined. Perhaps their equivalents today are those absurd financial "products", return risk and APR. The "Paddy and Mary Solemns", who attended weekly confessions, practised penance and amassed indulgences are mostly dead now. They have been replaced by people who not only understand but presumably believe ardently in tracker mortgages, return risk, APR and the rest of the advertising guff.

The theocracy that was Ireland has been replaced by an economy. Half a century from now - say in 2056 - are we likely to view the tracker mortgage crowd as we now characteristically view, with a certain scepticism and arguably even mild disdain, the amassing of indulgences? Who knows? But as banks get bigger and wealthier while churches lose congregations and even close, it's as well to be aware of the transitory nature of ideologies. Written on the back of the penny catechism is the phrase " . . . what is most deplorable of all, how tranquilly they [ cultured and knowledgeable people ignorant of religious 'duties'] repose there . . ."

In today's Ireland, where the currency is loot not indulgences, will people not come to laugh at and be embarrassed by this age of gushy flogging of financial "products"? Make up your own mind.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Sunday, November 12, 2006

The Science and Art of Impaling Cows

It's a long-standing belief that if you sneak up on a cow while they're sleeping and push their big bodies on one side really hard, a cow will literally tip over. This is an ancient game called "Sneaking Up On The Cow, Tipping it over, Raising it high and then Impaling it on some nearby railings. "

I've heard many stories on this ancient peasant pastime. Many have told me that they successfully Snuck-up/Tipped-over/Raised-high a cow by themselves but unfortunately I've only heard one person ever who was definite that Impaling A Cow was actually possible .

I'm a skeptic, and I've always had my doubts. These stories of such amazing achievement have always had one constant: the cow impaler supporter in question is always drunk.

Is it really possible to Sneak-up/Tip-over/Raise high/Impale a 1400 pound cow. If so, why the hell would anyone want to do such a thing?

Using the extensive research facilities available to me (I googled: Impaling A Cow) and the results were startling.

1. The Science of Cow Tipping
2. Albert the Bull

And this gem from Dundalk in Ireland actually !!!!

Sacred cow impaled on the altar of senseless vandalism



“Tain-ya”, the multi-coloured life sized paint cow, has become the latest victim of the wanton vandalism that is becoming an epidemic in Dundalk. “Tain-ya” was donated by the Naughton Foundation as part of a sculpture park in Ice-House Park only a few weeks back, but went missing last Thursday, only to be found impaled on a fence, damaged and an attempt made to set to work of art on fire.

No actual live being was injured during the writing of this piece - except maybe the ego-driven eejit whose raison d'etre is to malign Institutional Abuse survivors.

Here's a pic of "railings" in Letterfrack




Saturday, November 11, 2006

Thank you.

Why shouldn't I possess a private eagerness,

an anticipation all of my own,

Such that it crams every corner of my soul.

And I had sworn I would never again open the door

Of my senses to any outward appeal.

But I have not kept that vow

and this dismays me.

Even though I, again, have tasted

The tangible loveliness of life,

Seen colours as pristine as the

beginning of life .... and love.


Passion or compassion? I can't tell.

My heart and soul rushed to take it in.

But you have given me a gift,

And in that giving you have honoured me.

I have found the grace, the sense of worth.

And these new things have wiped away the hurt.

Thank You

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Curtin case will proceed

Chairman 'determined' Curtin case will proceed

Miriam Donohoe, Political Staff 07/11/2006

The chairman of the Oireachtas committee set up to investigate alleged misconduct by Circuit Court Judge Brian Curtin said last night he is "determined" the committee will proceed and complete its work despite a delay in the start of official private hearings yesterday. The hearings were adjourned for a week following a request from Judge Curtin's legal team to the committee last Wednesday to allow them more time to carry out their investigations. It is understood Judge Curtin sought a six-week adjournment but after a five-hour meeting the committee agreed to adjourn for just one week.

The committee chairman, Fianna Fáil TD Denis O'Donovan, said last night "each and every member" of the committee is "resolute" that it will complete its inquiry despite the adjournment. He told The Irish Times: "Unless the courts stop us we are determined we will proceed next Monday." Committee sources said there was anger at the adjournment request as all members had cleared their diaries for the private hearings expected to last two weeks. Eighteen witnesses, including one from the US and several Garda witnesses, were also on standby for the start of the hearings yesterday.

The committee is to report to the Dáil on allegations relating to the discovery of child pornography on Judge Curtin's computer. Judge Curtin was charged with possession of pornography following a Garda search in May 2002. He pleaded not guilty and was acquitted on
direction of the court in 2004 as the search warrant in the case was out of date. He brought unsuccessful High Court and Supreme Court challenges to the planned Oireachtas inquiry into whether to impeach him.

A report by independent experts on records held on Judge Curtin's computer was completed in August. The report also examined financial and other personal records to see if they were in any way connected or linked to information and files discovered on his computer. Details of the report will be formally presented to the committee when the hearings get under way next week.


© The Irish Times




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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Letterfrack: Founded on Fear

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Peter Tyrrell

Brothers should be contrite by Mary Raftery

Primo Levi, the Italian writer who gave us probably the most compelling account of life and death in a German concentration camp, told of a recurring nightmare common among inmates. He and his fellow sufferers at Auschwitz dreamt of a time in the future when they were free and were trying to tell people of the horrors in the camps, of the depths of depravity to which human beings are capable of sinking. Despite their desperate efforts to be heard, no one would listen or believe. They cried out and people turned their backs. And this is indeed what happened to Levi himself. For over 10 years, publisher after publisher rejected If This Is a Man, his memoir of Auschwitz. It is now of course an undisputed classic of 20th century literature.

Last Tuesday, a remarkable book was launched in this country. As a manuscript, it lay undiscovered for almost half a century. Its author, Peter Tyrrell, had tragically committed suicide almost 40 years ago by setting himself alight on London's Hampstead Heath. Like Primo Levi, he was determined that people hear his tale of horror, and, like Levi, he was ignored and dismissed. Tyrrell is a rare phenomenon of post-Independence Ireland - he is a genuine hero. His memoir, Founded on Fear, was discovered recently by historian Diarmuid Whelan in the National Library among the papers of the late Senator Owen Sheehy-Skeffington.

It tells of the grinding poverty of his childhood in County Galway, and his removal at the age of eight to the industrial school at Letterfrack in Connemara. It also covers his subsequent years in the British army during the second World War. He was wounded and captured in 1945, and memorably describes his German prisoner-of-war camp as "heaven on earth" compared to Letterfrack. Tyrrell's account of the seven years of his childhood spent at the Christian Brothers' institution has a childlike directness, an absence of self-pity and a unique even-handedness which place his memoir among the most powerful of the genre.

Written in 1958, it is also the very earliest such account that we know of, and consequently a document of enormous historical significance. In a powerfully dispassionate manner, largely unburdened by any tone of moralising, he describes the appalling reality of life for a child at Letterfrack during the 1920s and 1930s. He tells of the savage and sadistic beatings administered by a number of Brothers - boys of all ages were usually attacked from behind, so they never knew when it was coming. They were hit repeatedly, often up to 20 times, on the head and back at full force with a variety of weapons, from hefty sticks and leathers to thick rubber strips reinforced with metal wire.

Tyrrell recounts the systematic destruction of little boys, his mates, as they are literally in some cases driven mad by the endless torture they experience. On one occasion, his own arm was broken during an attack and he was ordered to tell the doctor that he had fallen down the stairs. Founded on Fear is also a rich and detailed account of daily life in Letterfrack, with all its incomprehensible contradictions. Tyrrell talks about how the Brothers completely changed personality on Christmas Day, playing and joking with the boys in the friendliest fashion. He describes outings arranged by Brothers who went to great lengths to ensure that the children enjoyed themselves. He also refers to Brothers who did not beat the children - by no means all were cruel and vicious. In short, he does not shy away from the oddly schizophrenic nature of these places.

It is this fair-mindedness which has been highlighted by the Christian Brothers in their statement about Tyrrell's book this week. In an unusual step, they have commented favourably on the memoir, and have taken the opportunity both to apologise unreservedly to victims of similar abuse and to acknowledge publicly their failings when during the 1950s Tyrrell himself came to confront them with their abuse of children. It was an extraordinarily brave action on his part. He was concerned that children might be still suffering from such cruelty at their institutions and he wanted it stopped. The Brothers, however, refused to listen. Documents supplied to the Child Abuse Commission show that their primary concern was that he might try to blackmail them.

Today, many of those abused at Christian Brother institutions during the very years when Peter Tyrrell was seeking to expose it have been deeply hurt by what they perceive as the Brothers' continuing denial of their responsibility for such widespread crimes against children. In this context, it is important to acknowledge the honesty of the Christian Brothers' statement accepting the validity of Peter Tyrrell's memoir. It is their most generous public utterance to date. It is all that he asked for when he was alive. Even now, so many years after his despairing suicide, it is still not too late to express such sincere contrition.

The Irish Times

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Friday, September 08, 2006

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Sunday, July 23, 2006

We were not responsible says Sisters of Charity

For over a decade a group of children at St Joseph's industrial school in Kilkenny were abused. The Sisters of Charity and the then Minister for Education covered up that abuse and the order of nuns now refuses to take responsibility for what happened. By Mary Raftery

Some of the most startling revelations to have emerged from the recent public hearings of the Child Abuse Commission concern an industrial school in Kilkenny, St Joseph's, run by the Irish Sisters of Charity.

It is a story
  • of a bishop writing coded notes
  • of references to a mysterious Sister A
  • of adult seminarians running around naked with young boys
  • of a bishop too fragile to be told that children had been sexually abused
  • of cover-up at government minister level
  • and of a nun who today expresses sorrow on behalf of her order but refuses to apologise.

It is above all the tragic story of children subjected to an appalling litany of over a decade of abuse.

The Kilkenny saga also provides the only clue so far on how the courts might attribute responsibility between state and church for the abuse of children in institutions. The High Court ruled that in one case of abuse at St Joseph's the Sisters of Charity had full liability, with the state being held to bear no responsibility.

This has profound implications for the government and its negotiation of the notorious church/ state deal whereby the state is paying out over 90 per cent of the ?1bn cost of compensating victims of child abuse at institutions, with the religious orders contributing less than 10 per cent.

To understand what happened at St Joseph's in Kilkenny, one must go back to the mid-1960s. There exists a piece of old, black-and-white RTÉ footage which shows a group of about 20 small boys, all under six, gathered at the door of a large, institutional-type building. The boys look happy enough and some are clasping buckets and spades. They are inmates of St Patrick's industrial school in Kilkenny, also run by the Sisters of Charity. They are about to go on a trip to the seaside.

In the knowledge of the rape and torture to which several of these boys were shortly to be subjected over a number of years, the footage is searingly tragic.

Soon after this piece of film was shot, St Patrick's was shut down as an industrial school for boys under 10. Those children aged between four and six were transferred up the road to another Sisters of Charity industrial school, St Joseph's, which had previously catered only for girls. The boys, 32 of them, were initially accommodated in two large rooms, where they ate, slept and played.

At one stage, reports of the behaviour of a group of four students from St Kieran's seminary in Kilkenny came to the attention of the head nun at St Joseph's, Sr Joseph Conception O'Donoghue. These students had been brought into the industrial school to supervise the boys during the night.

In 1995, Sr Conception made a statement to gardaí as part of their investigations into a series of child abuse allegations against several individuals employed at St Joseph's during the 1960s and 1970s. One of the incidents Sr Conception deals with concerns this group of students. According to her statement, she was told that the students and the children they were supervising "were running around naked".

She reported the matter to a local garda who did occasional voluntary work with the children at St Joseph's. He told a local priest, who in turn informed the Dean of Students at St Kieran's. Sr Conception took no further action. She states that the students did not return to the industrial school, and adds, "I didn't mention this incident to anyone."

This was merely the first of a long list of incidents and reports of abuse or suspected abuse at St Joseph's. One of the boys' earliest carers at the institution, Teresa Connolly, assaulted them both physically and sexually. She was convicted for this abuse in 1999.

By 1971, with the boys getting older, the nuns were keen to employ a man to look after them. That year, the first childcare course in Ireland was organised. It took place in Kilkenny and was run by Sister of Charity Stanislaus Kennedy. Its first graduates emerged in 1972, and among them was David Murray. He was immediately employed by the nuns at St Joseph's. They were delighted that the boys would now have a father figure to look up to.

In 1997, Murray was sentenced to 10 years in prison for buggery and acts of gross indecency on a number of the boys. Judge Matthews stated at the trial: "Never in the history of childcare in this state has one childcare worker caused so much damage. If these sad facts teach us anything, it is that we must listen to those who cannot and have not in the past been heard."

Murray had spent over three years terrorising the children at St Joseph's. They describe how he would come to some boy's bed almost every night and anally rape him. He would set his Alsatian dog Thunder on the children. Even the nuns were terrified of the dog. He threatened to kill the boys if they told anyone what he was doing to them.

He took one boy, Raymond Noctor, out of his bed in the dead of night and brought him outside to a cabbage patch. He told Raymond that he would bury him there if he talked.

However, displaying remarkable courage, a number of the boys, including Raymond Noctor, did tell. They complained to the head nun, Sr Conception, among others. They have always maintained that they told her about the sexual abuse. She has repeatedly denied this, saying that her understanding of their complaints was that David Murray was merely being hard on them.

According to her Garda statement during the investigation of Murray's crimes 20 years later in 1995, she does accept that Raymond Noctor came to her in the mid-1970s and told her that Murray was "at the boys". She claims that she understood this to mean "nagging at them and giving them the odd slap".

In her Garda statement, Sr Conception describes children in severe distress, several of them running away, and all complaining about Murray. Her response was to tell him not to be so hard on the boys. It was only in 1976, when another individual told her that Murray was "abusing the boys", that she says she realised "something serious was going on".

David Murray was then fired by Sr Conception. However, it was revealed at the public hearings of the Child Abuse Commission last May that she did Murray one last service. The commission heard that in 1979 Murray secured a job looking after children at Scoil Ard Mhuire in Lusk, Co Dublin, a reformatory school for boys.

As a routine matter, the Lusk school asked Sr Conception for a reference for Murray, as she was a previous employer. The nun obliged, sending back the details of Murray's employment record at St Joseph's. She made no reference to him being fired for abusing the children.

Sr Una O'Neill, the current superior general of the Sisters of Charity was asked at the commission hearings why no attempt was made to warn the Lusk school about Murray's record of abuse. She was unable to provide a satisfactory answer.

What makes this particularly egregious is that David Murray continued his rampage of child rape at Lusk during 1980 and 1981. It was not until 20 years later, in 2001, that he was convicted for the buggery of one child at this institution and on six counts of indecent assault and three of gross indecency. Described by Justice McCartan on this occasion as "evil and dangerous", Murray received a further 10-year jail sentence.

Back at St Joseph's, Kilkenny, in 1976, Sr Conception set about hiring another male childcare worker to replace David Murray. She employed an Englishman by the name of Myles Brady.

Brady was an extraordinarily violent man and had a problem with drink. He was known as 'whiskey-breath' by the children. He beat them frequently with hurley sticks and anything else that came to hand. He also sexually abused several of the boys.

In early 1977, another childcare worker at St Joseph's, Edward Murphy, complained to Sr Conception about Brady's treatment of the children. He was fobbed off. The nun has since said that she did not take his complaint seriously as he was only a trainee at the time.

With a highly commendable dedication to the welfare of the boys, Edward Murphy took the matter further. He approached the most high-profile nun in Kilkenny at the time, Sr Stanislaus Kennedy. Sr Stan was then running both the childcare course and the Kilkenny social services programme, an enormously progressive operation organised in conjunction with the Diocese of Ossory and the local bishop Peter Birch.

Edward Murphy has said that he was not aware that Brady was sexually abusing the boys – his complaint related to physical abuse. Sr Stan has repeatedly stated that she knew nothing of sexual abuse at St Joseph's until she was contacted by gardaí during their 1995 investigation into the crimes of Myles Brady and David Murray.


In the 1970s Sr Stan was the country's leading expert in childcare. Her understanding of her meeting with Edward Murphy is expressed in the statement she made to gardaí in 1995.

In this statement, signed by her in the presence of her solicitor, she stated Edward Murphy "complained to me that Myles Brady was physically abusing the children. I picked up on it that he might have been sexually abusing them as well. I told Eddie Murphy to tell Sr Conception. Eddie Murphy came back to me and said the children were going to tell the guards. Eddie Murphy either [said] the children are going or have gone to the Guards. I can't be exactly sure of what Eddie Murphy said. Eddie Murphy left St Joseph's shortly after that and Myles Brady also left. Eddie Murphy was very upset when he told me about Myles Brady."

Sr Stan also stated that she had a "vague recollection" of another individual, a local man from the town, complaining to her about the treatment of the children at St Joseph's. However, she adds later in her Garda statement that "with regard to what happened in St Joseph's you simply did not ask. I knew nothing about the running of St Joseph's."

We know that Sr Stan did not at any stage discuss these complaints with the head nun of St Joseph's, Sr Conception, not even after Edward Murphy's resignation in protest. His resignation letter stated that the situation concerning Myles Brady was "highly undesirable and unsafe".

We also know that Murphy informed Bishop Birch of the abuse of children at St Joseph's. The Child Abuse Commission was told that a copy of Murphy's resignation letter was found in diocesan files. The commission also discovered a cryptic note in the files, handwritten by Bishop Birch. This was displayed on screen at the commission hearings. It read as follows:

  1. Ed approached Sr. A to talk to boys re drunkenness etc. She promised to look into it.
  2. She talked to boys one and a half hours, was shocked by what heard.
  3. She asked B to stay off when off.
  4. Some days later off duty beat a boy badly.
  5. Ed threatened to resign. Offer of alternative job. Ed wants investigation, offer withdrawn.
  6. Mr Granville investigating (Ed told) and had seen Ed's letter.
  7. Phoned Mr. Granville – knew nothing of it.

A number of aspects of this note are intriguing. Firstly, it is interesting that the bishop should have felt the need to be so coded in his references to particular individuals. The Child Abuse Commission appeared satisfied that the "Ed" referred to is Edward Murphy, and that "B" is Myles Brady. The identity of "Sister A", however, remains unknown. It was stated that she is not Sr Conception. Since we are aware of only one other nun who was informed of Brady's abuse of the children, namely Sr Stanislaus Kennedy, it is possible that she is the "Sister A" referred to here. It is also interesting that Bishop Birch should record that Brady "beat a boy badly". There is nothing to show that either the bishop or the mysterious Sister A took any serious action on foot of this or any other complaint made to them.

Finally, the reference to "Mr Granville". He was the Department of Education's inspector of industrial schools at the time. He has consistently denied that he was ever informed of the abuse of children at St Joseph's, despite claims from Sr Conception that she told him. Bishop Birch's note would appear to support Mr Granville in this. However, it is not recorded if Granville took any action on foot of the bishop's own phone call on the matter, although we have no knowledge so far of what exactly the bishop told him.

And there matters lay for a few months. Edward Murphy had resigned, but from the point of view of the nuns and the bishop, the situation had been contained. Myles Brady continued exactly as before. There was no relief for the boys from his beatings and sexual assaults.

Then, in June of 1977, five months after Murphy's resignation, all hell broke loose. One of the boys of St Joseph's invited a classmate back to the institution for tea one evening. Myles Brady brought this boy, then aged 12, into his room and sexually assaulted him.

Some weeks after the abuse, the boy was found by his mother sticking pins into a photograph of Brady. He then told his family what had happened. Sr Conception was informed shortly afterwards. She persists in her claim that she did not understand the complaint she received to refer to sexual abuse. She nonetheless took immediate action.

Myles Brady had gone to Dublin for the weekend. Sr Conception contacted local garda John Tuohy, and together they went to Dublin to confront Brady. The Child Abuse Commission heard that Tuohy unambiguously informed Brady that the allegation against him was one of sexual assault of a child. Brady admitted the abuse, was fired on the spot and told never to return to Kilkenny.

Tuohy made a report to his superiors on the matter, but no prosecution was taken against Brady at the time as there was no direct complaint from the victim. It is, however, interesting to note that Tuohy, who later became a sergeant, was central to the 1995-1997 investigation and conviction of the succession of paedophiles who worked at St Joseph's.

Myles Brady pleaded guilty in 1997 to several counts of sexually assaulting a number of children and received a four-year prison sentence. He died in 1999.

In 2003, in what became known as 'The Visitor Case', the boy (now an adult) from the town who had been sexually abused by Brady took a civil action against both the Sisters of Charity and the Department of Education. He had emigrated to Spain and had been deeply traumatised by the abuse. He had at one stage attempted to take his own life.

Unlike most victims of abuse at children's institutions, this man was not entitled to seek compensation from the Residential Institutions Redress Board, as he was only a visitor to the school and not an inmate.

Equally, the case did not come within the definition of the state indemnity provided to religious orders as part of the church/state deal. Consequently, this was to be the first time a court would be able to assess the relative responsibilities of the state and the religious orders who ran the industrial schools.

Although the Department of Education and the Sisters of Charity were co-defendants in the action, they fought hard to attach as much blame as possible to each other. Justice Kevin O'Higgins' judgement in the High Court was startling. He found the Sisters of Charity, as managers of the institution concerned and as the employer of Myles Brady, to be 100 per cent liable for the damages of ?75,000 awarded to the plaintiff. The judge's conclusion that the state had zero liability flies directly in the face of the church/state deal, in which the government (ie the taxpayer) has shouldered 90 per cent of the compensation payout to abuse victims.

While it has been pointed out that there are certain unique features to this case, most notably that the victim was not in the care of the state as a child, it is worth examining exactly what Justice O'Higgins said in his lengthy and carefully argued judgement. His conclusions have much wider implications in terms of defining the relationship between state and church in the running of the industrial schools:

"The roles of the department and of the managers [ie the religious orders] are clearly delineated in the Children's Act, 1908. Although Sr Joseph Conception stated: 'We were totally accountable to the Department of Education,' this does not accurately reflect the large level of autonomy in the running of the institution given to the managers and provided for in the statutory framework. The role of the department... 'to certify, to inspect, and to advise' more accurately describes the reality of the situation. In those circumstances... I do not think that in the context of this particular case the Minister [for Education] can be made liable for the assault, the subject matter of these proceedings."


In the light of the deeply shocking litany of abuse suffered by the boys of St Joseph's, it is difficult to comprehend the attitude of Sr Una O'Neill in her testimony to the Child Abuse Commission in May. As head of the Sisters of Charity, she appeared unwilling to commit herself to an apology to the children so grievously injured while in the care of her order.

"If an apology were in anyway to link us with the David Murrays and Myles Bradys of this world then in no way would an apology be given," she told the commission. She added that her order expressed regret and sorrow that children were abused, but she did not accept that the nuns shared any responsibility for that abuse.

A constant refrain of the Sisters of Charity has been that they had no knowledge or awareness prior to the late 1980s of even the existence of such a phenomenon as child sexual abuse. They repeated this as recently as the 1990s, when evidence emerged that several of the children at Madonna House in Dublin, run by the order, had been abused by a maintenance man employed by the nuns. In fact, as a result of evidence presented at the Child Abuse Commission's public hearings, it is now possible to trace this order's detailed knowledge of child sex abuse back as far as the mid-1950s.

Sr Una O'Neill was questioned at the commission about an extraordinary incident which occurred at St Joseph's Kilkenny in 1954. The nun in charge at the time had applied to the Department of Education for permission to transfer a number of girls to a reformatory in Limerick. The children were described as having misbehaved.

The department's medical inspector of industrial schools, Anna McCabe, became curious and paid a visit to St Joseph's in Kilkenny. She interviewed the girls and discovered that nine of them had been sexually abused by a house-painter employed by the nuns. When the head nun was confronted with this by Anna McCabe, she admitted it was true.

Up to this point, the Department of Education cannot be faulted – it did its job properly by unearthing serious crimes against children, crimes which had not been reported to anyone by the nuns in charge. However, what followed can only be construed as a clear obstruction of justice.

A comprehensive cover-up was organised. A meeting was arranged, attended by the superior general of the Sisters of Charity, two senior Department of Education officials, the local parish priest Fr O'Keefe, and the nun in charge of St Joseph's. At the urging of Fr O'Keefe, it was agreed that the matter would not be reported to gardaí. It was also decided not to inform the bishop, who was apparently too old, too frail and too deaf to be told. The cover-up was sanctioned at the highest level by the Minister for Education, Fine Gael's Richard Mulcahy.

The Kilkenny paedophile was simply dismissed from his post. He was never charged with any offence. As to the girls, some were transferred, others remained in Kilkenny. There was no evidence presented at the Child Abuse Commission public hearings of any particular concern being evinced for their welfare or for the trauma they had suffered.

It seems that no child protection measures were put in place by the Sisters of Charity on foot of their direct experience of such a serious occurrence of child sexual abuse in the 1950s. Instead, every effort was made to suppress all knowledge of the incident. By burying their heads in the sand with such single-minded determination, the nuns were destined to repeat their appalling mistakes throughout the 1970s in Kilkenny and during the 1980s and 1990s in Madonna House, with tragic consequences for the dozens of boys and girls so savagely robbed of their innocence and their childhoods by a seemingly endless succession of paedophiles employed by these religious sisters.

By refusing even today to acknowledge their share of responsibility for this abuse, the Sisters of Charity continue to abuse those they failed to protect as vulnerable children in their care. And through its extraordinarily generous indemnity deal, the state continues to protect the nuns from the consequences of their negligence.


Sr Stan responds


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Saturday, July 22, 2006

Friday, July 21, 2006

Friday, June 30, 2006

Deliver Us from Evil




When Amy Berg decided to hang out a shingle and produce feature documentaries two years ago, she wasn't quite sure what subject might both consume her interest and hit a nerve with audiences. Berg, a Los Angeles native, began her career in local radio, moved into local news at KCBS and segued to a gig producing investagative reports for CNN. She received Emmys for a sports documentary and a social profile set in South Central L.A. In those jobs, she'd also done close to a dozen reports on the sex scandals that wracked California's Catholic dioceses over the past decade.

"The subject had become like mother's milk to me," said Berg. "It's just so complex and despite this wall of silence, or at least lack of cooperation from the church, the leaks continue to reveal details that are shocking and alarming." An associate had given Berg a phone number for one Father Oliver O'Grady and she decided to make a blind call to him. A convicted pedophile, he had moved back to Ireland to escape scrutiny. She knew him only from criminal records and imagined him as some sort of monster preying on the vulnerability of children.

"That first call still sticks with me," she says. "He answers the phone, 'hello and good evening,' with such warmth, you'd think you were encountering some delightful, impish leprechaun."

If not precisely a profile of O'Grady, her feature documentary Deliver Us from Evil - which premiered Saturday at the Los Angeles Film Festival - situates him at its center. For good and ill, he is its soul. Berg puts it more simply: "There would be no film without O'Grady."

There's no denying that the priest, who worked in several North California parishes, has a seductive personality and the filmmaker admits she had to watch that she didn't fall under his spell. Berg points out that he honed a well-craft rationalization for his predatory behavior but was not blind to the fact that he relished the attention; perhaps even gloried in it. "He'd ask me questions about Cardinal (Roger) Mahoney (of Los Angeles) and other things to test the waters," she recalls. "He feels safely away from it all in Ireland and besides, he keeps a low profile.

Berg personally financed a trip to see meet O'Grady. Months later, she made another trip and in eight days shot the interview footage. Armed with that material she proceeded to secure the private financing that allowed her to make the movie. The rest of the film is culled from available news material and extensive interviews with three of O'Grady's victims, their families, and their emotional and legal support teams. Deliver Us from Evil's emotional potency derives largely from putting a human face on decades of looking away from this crisis by the church.

O'Grady hasn't seen the film and, in fact, he's had no contact with Berg since shortly after conducting the interviews. After finding out about O'Grady's participation, his brother - an Irish entertainer - advised him in no uncertain terms not to speak again with the filmmaker. She's been told that he's now taking computer training, but to what end remains a msytery.

Berg couldn't be more pleased about the audience response during the opening weekend of the festival. She says that she wrestled with bowing the film at the Tribeca fest or in Ireland but the public and industry reaction at LAFF more than validated her decision to premiere the film where the story would have the greatest resonance.

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By Gina Piccalo, Times Staff Writer
As he describes his pedophilic urges, Oliver O'Grady, a former priest who for about 20 years fondled and raped children from his Central California parishes, stands in a Dublin, Ireland, park smiling, noting casually as a small red-headed boy walks right behind him. He lives nearby, alone and unchecked by police, though O'Grady served seven years in a California prison for sexually assaulting a 9-year-old boy in the mid-1990s. Nearby, a playground is visible.

This is just one of many chilling moments from "Deliver Us From Evil," a new documentary directed by investigative news producer Amy Berg that premiered Saturday to a sellout crowd at the Los Angeles Film Festival and screens again tonight. Chilling too are the reasons that O'Grady agreed to be interviewed on camera: He wants to force L.A. Cardinal Roger M. Mahony and other church officials to acknowledge they knew of his abuse and transferred him to a new parish every time a family complained — allegations that Berg tries to substantiate with victim and police interviews and church correspondence — despite their promises to keep O'Grady away from kids.

"I should have been removed and attended to and [Mahony] then should also have followed up by attending to the people I had harmed," O'Grady tells Berg in the film.

"Deliver Us" comes years after the priest sex abuse scandals broke in Los Angeles and other cities, but Berg feels there's too little said about the church's reluctance to take responsibility for the crimes. As an investigative news producer, Berg spent four years on the story for CBS News and CNN Investigations. In her film, she uses personal letters, police reports and as yet unaired deposition footage to suggest Mahony has not been forthcoming and show what she believes is the criminal neglect — what one psychologist from the film called "spiritual abuse" — by Roman Catholic Church officials.

During the last two years, she traveled to Ireland twice to interview O'Grady and followed two of his victims to Rome in their failed attempt to get an apology from the pope. She sifted through hours of videotaped testimony from Mahony and other church officials, footage in which they deny any knowledge of the abuse despite an increasingly thick church file of complaints against the priest. It was just one of many moments during the screening that elicited loud reaction from the audience — in this case, groans.

"Deliver Us" is one of the 15 documentaries the International Documentary Assn. will help qualify for Oscar consideration. There's much interest in Ireland, where O'Grady was born and raised. It will screen at the Cork Film Festival this year, and Berg hopes to bring it to Rome. The last time she spoke to O'Grady, six months ago, Berg said he was terrified of the fallout the film would bring to his life.

During a Q&A session after the screening, the director was asked what reaction, if any, she had gotten from Mahony or the church. "His attorneys came to my attorneys' office and watched it last week," she said. "I was told they were somber when they left."

In the film, Mahony appears in a November 2004 videotaped deposition denying, under oath, any knowledge of O'Grady's crimes, contending he hardly knew the man. Though Mahony hasn't seen the documentary, spokesman Tod Tamberg confirmed that he and attorneys for Mahony and the church viewed it Thursday. Tamberg in a statement said Berg's film "quickly loses its bearing in a squall of anti-church tirades by lawyers who have a huge financial stake in sex abuse litigation against the church." He accuses Berg of staging O'Grady's actions and allowing him "self-serving comments" until "one begins to get the uneasy feeling that the molester-as-master-manipulator is having one last sick and twisted joke at everyone's expense."

Berg says the film is just her way of circumventing the church's stonewalling to get the story out.

"I don't consider myself an activist," said Berg. "I'm not Catholic. And I wasn't raped by a priest. The reason I did this film is that it was one of those stories that every time it was about to air [on TV], somehow the church convinced the lawyers to stall it from airing.... I was interested in that. And the more I researched it, the more I investigated it, the more of a story it was."

Berg lives in a modest Santa Monica apartment with her son Spencer and a little dog named Lucy. One of her Emmys for a CBS-2 segment on extreme sports sits atop a dresser in the center of her living room. On the inside of her front door, a small note reminds her to "pay rent." She's an L.A. native, though reluctant to share too much personal information, she said, so as not to give the Catholic Church any ammunition.

Berg said she realized the story was too big for a TV segment after the L.A. Diocese's repeated resistance to a 12-minute CNN piece in 2004. She got O'Grady's phone number from a researcher for one of the victim's attorneys and cold-called him. He was jovial and candid, she said, and so they spent months talking weekly, conversations that O'Grady let Berg record.

"He seemed to be very upset about the fact that the people who covered up his abuse were still in such powerful positions while he was basically defrocked and abandoned," said Berg.

After initial reservations, O'Grady agreed to go on camera, and in early 2005, Berg went to Ireland, where she spent eight days — six hours each day — listening as he detailed his sexual abuse. In the film, O'Grady appears to be enjoying himself, smiling brightly as he describes confessing to another priest his attraction to children. When it was over, Berg said, the horror of what she'd heard finally hit her.

"The last two days of my trip I stayed in my hotel room in Dublin, and I couldn't get out of bed," said Berg. "I was like achy and sweaty. It was like a physical and emotional breakdown."

Three of O'Grady's victims, Ann Jyono, Nancy Sloan and a young man identified as "Adam," agreed to share their stories on camera. They describe their families as devout Catholics who trusted O'Grady implicitly. He regularly spent the night with the Jyonos and took Sloan on unsupervised trips. In Adam's case, he became romantically involved with his mother before he began molesting Adam. "He had total control of us because he was at our school, he was at home, he was at church," said Jyono in the film. "In a Catholic lifestyle, what else is left? What areas of my life was he not at?"

O'Grady's transfers began in the mid-1970s after Sloan's mother confronted Stockton Bishop Joseph Guilfoyle, who is now deceased. Guilfoyle, Sloan said, promised the family he would relocate O'Grady to a monastery, so the Sloans didn't press charges. Instead, O'Grady was transferred to another parish.

Two years later, when Mahony was made bishop of Stockton, another family, identified in the film as the "Howards," threatened to sue the church for O'Grady's abuse of their sons. Mahony has said he had no idea of the nature of the abuse. "I told him he was to cease and desist any more contact with Mrs. Howard or the Howard family," testified Mahony in November 2004. "He promised to do so, and I never had another report about him and the Howards."

O'Grady was transferred again, this time to Stockton. In 1984, O'Grady's therapist reported him to the Stockton police, alleging sexual contact with a 9-year-old boy. When the police threatened to press charges, Berg's film asserts, church officials promised to relocate O'Grady to a job that kept him away from children. Instead, O'Grady was transferred to a San Andreas parish where he was the sole priest in charge. At the time, church authorities didn't tell police of the abuse reported years earlier. Mahony said in deposition footage in the film that he had no knowledge of the incident.

In a March 2005 deposition, Msgr. James Cain, the former vicar general of Stockton, explained the church's reasons for withholding information by saying, "One was a girl. It was inappropriate touching. The other was a boy, [O'Grady] said. So I just didn't hook them up in my own mind."

Cain was asked by the Jyonos' attorney John Manly during the same deposition: "If it had come to your attention that Father O'Grady told your vicar general that he had sexual urges toward a 9-year-old boy or a 10-year-old or an 11-year-old — is that cause to remove him from ministry?"

"No," responded Cain.

Berg tried, without success, for more than a year to get an interview with Mahony. And she said she made it a point not to editorialize, though it's hard to walk away from the film with a positive feeling toward the church's actions.

"Everyone's words speak to their merits and detriments on their own," she said.

The film, which went into the festival without a distributor, had sparked interest by Sunday, Berg said, although no deal had been finalized by press time.

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MORE
DELIVER US FROM EVIL

Sunday, June 25, 2006

ISPCC colluded in the sanctified abuse of children

PUBLIC HEARING: Paul Gilligan of the ISPCC was questioned last week by the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse

THERE is a horrible irony in the old Dublin terminology used for officers from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, now the Irish Society, formerly the National Society. They were known as the "cruelty men", while officials and volunteers with the Society of St Vincent de Paul were known as "the poverty men".

We have been accustomed to look with pride at the work done by the NSPCC and its successor. Even when made painfully aware of our national shortcomings in relation to the way children were mistreated in the past, we saw the Society as disinterested, committed, decent, caring with total probity for the welfare of the nation's disadvantaged children. But last week we have been made aware of the reality. And we are forced to ask if children were ever safe in this hellhole called Ireland?

The Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse was questioning the current chief executive of the ISPCC at the public hearing of the commission's investigation committee. Paul Gilligan told the committee of the shame attached to unmarried women who gave birth. But there were no statistics as to how many of those women "gave away" their children in order to distance themselves from the stigma: the category ofillegitimacy was not used in institutions.

Why should it be? All of the children committed to those bleak prisons were treated as isolated numbers. They were not members of the community at large, much less the community of a family or that phrase so beloved of the religious in former years, "the communion of saints". Children, even those born in wedlock, could be removed from a loving family home because of the complaint of a spiteful neighbour when the parents' crime was merely poverty. Even sorrow became a crime, as children were committed because a father had died and the mother was destitute, or a mother had died and a father was emotionally destitute and unable to care for his children.

And then there were the children who never had a father, save in the biological sense. One woman told of her children being taken away when a nosy neighbour reported to the authorities that she was unmarried. She told it in a letter produced to the Commission by her son, one of those children removed from her side when he was only two years old. The children were "taken into care" by the NSPCC, which then committed them to an industrial school. The two-year-old remained there until he was 16.

And the NSPCC, far from stepping in on behalf of the children, eagerly co-operated in this process. There was even then plenty of anecdotal evidence that the industrial schools offered inducements to the "poverty men" to keep the supply of children coming. They got a capitation grant for the care and education (!) of each of the children committed to them.

And of course, the children were handy sources of cheap labour. This was at a time when such education as the children received would tell them of the horrors of the British Empire, which consigned small children to the workhouse, from where they were sold as slaves to chimney sweeps and undertakers. In contrast, these little Irish slaves stolen from their parents were told they were fortunate and, of course, destined for eternal salvation.

But the authorities knew nothing of this. How could they? The State was a noble one, operating entirely for the benefit of the children's present and future welfare. But the man who told the Commission of the years in his life between the ages of two and 16 said that his mother wrote to the authorities. He was still able to read her heartfelt and heartbroken letter. Her children were ill-treated and suffering in the school the State had given them to, she wrote. She wanted them back; she loved them. When they came home for holidays, they were ill from hunger, filthy and frightened. But the State sent them back to "school". Their home was a place of moral degradation: their mother was unmarried.

And the NSPCC was a willing participant in all of this. There was (and apparently is) reason to believe that at least some of its "officers" took the "inducements" to recommend the handing over of children to the industrial schools. Inducements: money. And while the ethos of the society proclaimed that they followed up on their cases, the reality was that the children were locked behind the walls of the industrial schools and forgotten.

And the State allowed this non-statutory agency, a voluntary organisation, to wield such power. And the State knew: it had at least one agonised letter which in a just world would have triggered a statutory national inquiry. Anyway, what use would an inquiry have been? In the Ireland of the time, an unsanctified home put a child in moral danger. And there are people who still believe that.

And that man and his late mother's letter were representative, Paul Gilligan said, of 70 per cent of referrals to the Society. Seventy per cent of referrals came from members of the public, and the NSPCC could act arbitrarily. They frequently did. And between one and three per cent of these children were committed to industrial schools. Committed without hope of redress, no matter what their ages, until they were 16 years old, and then turned out on the world, uneducated and adrift, without any emotional support. And in admirably neutral language, Mr Gilligan said there "was no evidence the society engaged in either thinking about or providing aftercare for such children".

But then, why should it? The Society's operatives were well-trained: they too had been brought up under the sway of the all-powerful religious: they saw no reason to question the system that gave the Religious Orders rights beyond those even of the children's parents. They had been reared to think that illegitimacy was the stain of Satan, and that an unmarried mother or a poor mother was an unfit mother. Just as a child being reared within a sanctified Catholic marriage was being reared correctly: children needed chastising, so beatings by those who wore wedding rings and went to Sunday or even daily Mass were merely justified punishments, not to be interfered with under the Constitutional status of "the family".

And the State colluded. Its operatives too, our TDs and Ministers, had been reared dutifully. They served a State whose first action had been to dedicate its service to the Vatican, where men who violated children's bodies were protected and promoted.

There is a horror in what we have been hearing at the Commission, a horror of inevitability and a chain incapable of being broken. With every piece of evidence, that hopeless chain is seen to have tightened its grip on the Ireland of the very recent past, forcing it to turn away from the "godless" outside world, a world where the State's Gothic imprisonment of helpless children might be criticised.

And nobody, nobody, nobody turned on the Frankenstein that was Catholic Ireland. Still nobody has turned: there are few voices saying that this baleful influence must be removed forever. They still talk about the individual good in priests, nuns and brothers; it is as though the monstrosity of the corporate cancer is too terrible to contemplate. State and Church, acting as one, corrupting even a voluntary service dedicated to the protection of children.

Can we go lower?
Emer O'Kelly Sunday Independent June 25 2006

Friday, June 23, 2006

Striking Back

Great to see survivors striking back

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Church denial of truth over abuse must end


It is time the Catholic Church and its apologists acknowledged the scale of what happened at the Daingean and Lusk reformatories, writes Patsy McGarry, Religious Affairs Correspondent

The most obdurate of the religious congregations which managed residential institutions for children will appear before the investigation committee of the Commission to Inquire into Child Abuse today. They, the Oblates of Mary Immaculate in Ireland, managed St Conleth's reformatory at Daingean in Co Offaly and Scoil Mhuire in Lusk, Co Dublin. A total of 322 abuse complaints have been made by former residents of both.

Appearing before the committee in May 2005, the congregation's Fr Michael Hughes strongly rejected allegations of serious sexual and physical abuse at Daingean. Concerning allegations of sexual abuse by staff there, he said "immoral, impure conduct", strictly forbidden at the reformatory, "was a problem among the boys".

And on physical abuse? "The punishment was very, very severe, but I feel it would be an injustice to the men of the time to say it was abuse," he said. No punishment books - required by law - had survived from there.

He didn't know why.

He was aware of concerns expressed by members of the Kennedy Committee, which inspected Daingean in 1968, at the administration of corporal punishment to boys' bare buttocks and that the then resident manager Fr McGonagle appeared to accept the value of such punishment as "more humiliating".

Fr McGonagle, he said, had denied acknowledging the added value of such humiliation, though he did not deny boys so punished were naked with their shirts pulled up. Fr Hughes accepted as "an honest statement of what was observed" a 1966 report which said corporal punishment at Daingean was "used frequently. When it is used it is very severe and in my opinion cannot in any circumstances be justified".

He disputed complaints that the boys were not fed properly and disagreed with an internal Department of Education memo which said there was "shameful neglect" of the boys' education and that they were being made use of as labourers.

He disputed findings by the Kennedy Committee on Daingean that the boys were "dirty and unkempt", that showers at Daingean were "rusted and disintegrating" through lack of use, and that toilets were "dirty and unsanitary". He contrasted those Kennedy findings with a "very careful" 1966 report from a Dr Lysaght.

He disagreed with Justice Seán Ryan, chairman of the committee, that it seemed "eccentric" to accept the findings of one report and reject those of the other.

The hearing was also told six Oblate Brothers at Daingean had nervous breakdowns between 1964 and 1969. Fr Hughes agreed men under such stress "might snap and become abusive", though he felt they "were [ now] being treated very unfairly".

Fr Hughes blamed the shortcomings at Daingean on the poor level of State funding. Yet in 1955, after a visit there, the secretary of the Department of Education described Daingean as "Dickensian" and said conditions in which its cows were kept were considerably better than those for the boys. He added: "I am of the opinion that very handsome profits are made on the farm, but I can see no evidence of any of the profits being ploughed back for the benefit of the boys."

You might say, in light of so much documented and objective evidence, that Fr Hughes is somewhat deluded where Daingean is concerned. That is for the commission to decide. But, if so, Fr Hughes is not unique.

Where some bishops, priests and many among the "our-church-right-or-wrong" brigade are concerned there is a similar tendency. For example, they have been using one statistic from the Savi Report (Sexual Abuse and Violence in Ireland), published in 2002 by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, with unseemly regularity for the last four years.

As recently as May 27th, Breda O'Brien trotted it out on these pages in criticism of Vincent Browne. "He is aware that only 3 per cent of sexual abuse is carried out by religious or clergy. Yet how many programmes have focused on the other 97 per cent?" she asked.

That "3 per cent" is in fact 3.2 per cent. The same Savi Report found that 2.5 per cent of abuse was by fathers.

It means that religious or clergy (ie, diocesan priests, priests in religious congregations, and brothers) as a social cohort are more than 1.25 times more likely to abuse than biological fathers.

Indeed, from what is known, there is little to suggest any other relevant social cohort - teachers, social or care workers - reach such levels when it comes to abuse. Ignorance of this, wilful or otherwise, should not be indulged anymore, particularly following the welcome decision by Pope Benedict last month that the founder of the Legionaries of Christ, Fr Marciel Maciel Degollado, be restricted in ministry on foot of allegations of sex abuse spanning decades.

It set a new example where Rome is concerned.

When that decision was announced the legionaries and their lay Regnum Christi movement issued an extraordinary statement.

It said that, following the Pope's decision, Fr Maciel had "declared his innocence and, following the example of Jesus Christ, decided not to defend himself in any way". The comparison is odious, perhaps blasphemous.

Delusion hardly comes greater, but in this instance it has been challenged, at last. While some senior figures in the Catholic Church here have shown commendable leadership on this issue it is about time that others, and their apologists, did so too. It is time they followed the example of Pope Benedict, acknowledged the elephant in the sacristy, and dealt with it.

© The Irish Times

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